Traveling through Space and Time

Your now daily dose of the Alleged Artist:

If you’ve been tracking the news lately, you may have come across a story about Voyager 1. NASA launched this spacecraft and its “sibling” Voyager 2 back in 1977, with the primary objective of collecting new science data from the planets in our solar system, but also with the knowledge that it wasn’t going to turn around and come back home, meaning it will just keep barreling through interstellar space until it something hits or captures it. Voyager 1 is currently 15 billion miles from Earth, officially completely outside of our solar system, and traveling at over 38000 miles an hour. For reference, a single circle around the Earth is about 25000 miles.

The reason Voyager 1 has been in the news recently is that for several months, it was sending back nonsensical data. Keep in mind – this spacecraft was first sent into the hostile environment of space 47 years ago. I started sending out nonsensical data long before that age. But the always innovative minds at NASA found a way to figure out what was going on with the spacecraft, and they recently started fixing the problem so they can receive science data again sometime in the near future. This was not just your typical programming challenge; it takes nearly a day for signals to travel at the speed of light from Earth to Voyager 1 and vice versa. So every time they try something new, the engineers need to wait nearly two days to find out how it went. Every aspect of it is mind-stretching and awe-inspiring.

Ok, so why am I talking about this in a series of posts about my early music? Because I am keeping my promise from the last post: the next song we’re going to talk about here is not about “matters of the heart”. It’s about Voyager 1 (and Voyager 2, really).

Tastiera’s third album, “Sax and Violins”, was released in the summer of 1990, and featured a major advancement in the production process: a Yamaha tape recorder that could split a normal cassette tape into four mixable tracks. This was nothing short of magic for a guy who had been bouncing recordings between boomboxes and home stereo systems for years. Unfortunately, with the new equipment came new expectations, and at one point I became so frustrated with the end product not sounding like I thought it should, that I almost quit entirely. But apparently my social calendar was still barren enough that I decided to go ahead and keep at it. In the end, the vocals didn’t really advance in quality, but the instrumental mix did.

So how did I end up singing about a space probe? I’ll try to answer as succinctly as possible… first of all, I’ve been a nerd my entire life. I was into math and science from an early age, and in 1980, Carl Sagan blew my mind with the “Cosmos” series, which spent a little time talking about the Voyager missions. Around that same time, the Voyager spacecraft were entering their prime in terms of studying the outer planets, and this continued into the mid to late 1980’s. So I suppose that all conspired to create an urge to write an ode, and that’s what this nerd did:

Most of the people who expressed any kind of opinion indicated “Voyager” was the best song on “Sax and Violins”. But for me, there is also a unique personal voyage with this song. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I didn’t have the resources to create a boatload of copies of every new album. I made a handful of copies of each one to give to friends, and then I always had my “master copy”, along with the tapes that I used in the Yamaha recorder. But at some point in the few years after I recorded “Sax and Violins”, I lost anything that could be considered a master copy. That was okay for all of the songs except “Voyager”: for some reason I had a copy of that song that was cut off before it ended. So the entire third chorus and fadeout were gone. But the third chorus has the “plot twist” – so a major element of the song’s essence was gone as well. Once I had the technology to digitize my music in the early 2000’s, I was able to kluge a new ending that basically repeated the first chorus and then repeated the “jam” in the middle as the new fadeout. But it just wasn’t the same.

Enter modern technology. I decided early on in the production of “Origin Story” that I was going to do my best to recreate the original vision for “Voyager”. So I used UVR to separate the vocals from the instrumentation in the recording, and then I deleted the kluged chorus and recorded new vocals with the original lyrics. I tried to match the original singing style and tone as best I could, and then also tried to match the reverb as best I could, and finally used some of my modern software synthesizer capabilities in Logic to create some transition effects. The result is what you hear when you click the MP3 player above. Would you have been able to tell if I hadn’t said anything?

It’s not perfect, but at least I can rest knowing the original song is out there again now. Plus this was a chance for my 55-year-old self to jam for a few minutes with my 21-year-old self. That was kinda cool.

LYRICS

Cape Canaveral on the platform, this is my destiny
Start the fire underneath my metal feet, billowing smoke for all to see
I’m in the air, piercing the sky, far above the human friends I leave behind
Beyond the clouds, beyond the atmosphere, pitch black rains on me

Miles away from the hands that built me, they wonder if I’m ever coming back home
I’m the Voyager, a planet’s eyes and ears, and I’m way past alone

Deep red warrior with polar eyes, look back, see two sisters guarding the little one
Hurtling boulders on the way to Colossus, a far cry from the warm glowing Sun
Rings around the elegant cotton ball, and two cold dark twins gazing upon it all
And running like a rebel through the outskirts of the family, so little, but more than none

A light year away from the voices calling out to me, knowing I’m never coming back home
I’m the Voyager, a world’s laughter and tears, and I’m far beyond alone

Turns out the moon was only a handshake away – distances have no meaning anymore
Time has dissolved into a merciless beast – it teases me and chills me straight to the core

Forever away from the spirit that guides me, a messenger who’ll never come back home
Just a Voyager searching for another voice, to ask me where I’m from
Then they’ll send out another one, back to my home, another lonely journey into the stars
Another Voyager on a golden quest, to tell you you’re not alone

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